It’s exactly 30 years ago that hurricane force winds battered Britain. It’s 3pm and the sky looks eerie. It’s taken on an apricot hue as if a sand cloud is rolling across the sky. Half of the sky is black. The street lights came on at 2.30pm as mothers left for the school run. I ran home from the Cafe Nero worried I would get caught in a rain storm but there were only a few spots. It feels as if there is an eclipse of the sun. The air is exceptionally warm and there’s no wind but yet I have the distinct feeling that a storm is brewing, Orphelia, moving across from the west and maybe it will be worse than in 1987.
I remember the hurricane of October 1987 well. I’d just graduated and was doing voluntary work at The Citizens’ Advice Bureau in Tunbridge Wells. My mum was running a bed and breakfast and I was relegated to the attic room at the top of the house. I had no bathroom and had to wash at work. I couldn’t wait to leave home but I had nowhere else to go.
At about 3am I looked out of my attic window to see the branches of trees bent right over, kissing the land. The sky had the same apricot hue that it has now, as I type. The electricity went out. The headlines at 7am reported that “storms have wrecked havoc across Britain.”
These are some of your memories of the 1987 storm gathered from friends on Facebook:
“Waking up in the middle of the night hearing all the noise. I was 15 so found it more exciting than scary and of course we got the next day off school! My baby brother has just turned 30 so was a wee baby when it happened and he was the only one that slept through it all!”
“The smell of salt water in the air and the wood at the bottom of the field where I lived was matchwood like a giant hand had swiped the trees asunder and in the village slates from roofs sticking in the ground as though thrown like a knife. In the days that followed every electricity worker from across UK were working on the power one van was from Wales . I lived in a timber framed farmhouse it survived without a scratch because it literally moved with the wind . Mother Nature it seems has the last say always.”
“I woke in the early hours and such was the severity of the wind I decided to bring Starsky the rabbit and his hutch inside my kitchen. I chucked on my dressing gown and bent down to lift up the hutch when a wild gust of wind made my dressing gown fly up and wrap itself round my head. I had nothing on underneath.
Later that day my next door neighbour informed me, rather creepily, that he had seen me getting the hutch inside!”
“At the time I was living in Eynsford in Kent. The villlage like so many others around was cut off because of fallen trees. Our old timber cottage from 1640 also survived the devestation. It probably has seen many a bad storm in its time. I was at college at the time and managed (don’t know how) to get into Dartford with my dad as he worked for a timber company and needed to check the premises for damage. Trees around his factory were all gone. Dartford was like a ghost town and college was closed! Scary!”
“The power went off at the local hospital and the backup generator failed temporarily. I remember my flat mate telling me how they had to hand ventilate the babies on the intensive care unit.
Somehow managed to get trains and buses to Bexhill from London (took all day) to check on parents – no mobiles then and landlines down. Remember seeing half the beach on the roads.
Parents had some broken windows from flying pebbles but nothing serious – and they lived about a mile from the sea!”
“A power cut early morning. Was impossible to get to work, so walked for miles just taking loads on photos – was just unbelievable. On the Saturday, the army cleared 90+ fallen trees from our railway line just to the next station !”
“Living up a steep hill surrounded by woods was noisy and scary. I had only gone home for the night as ny boyfriend was on nights and i wanted to see my Mum and Dad. I woke up to the howling wind and immediately seeked refuge in my sisters bedroom floor as her secondary glazing was all fitted and much quieter. I woke in the morning and no way could i get into work, so i walked back to my boyfriends house. First thing he asked was why are you not at work? He had come home earĺy and slept through all of it so it took some convincing what had happened! Poor Sevenoaks and surrounding areas were a bit if a mess. We lost a few branches of our 200 + year old tree in my parents garden and a few odd small trees had snapped so we were quite lucky. If the large ones had gone over to the side, they would have smashed straight into the house.”
“My bedroom was located above a carport and I could feel movement in the walls during the early hours. I had arranged to go to London that day and so got up for an early start to find that there was no power and when I go outside it was difficult to put one foot ahead of the other without doubling up with the power of the wind. Needless to say I never got to London as there was so much tree destruction that it was barely possible to get out of our village. I managed to get to work later that morning, I worked within the Tenanted Trade Department of a local brewery and spent the rest of the day listening to numerous tenants who called the brewery concerning damage to their pubs, mainly chimney’s collapsing and roof damage.”
“I was 10 at the time and lived in Hassocks. I remember going downstairs and my dad and i watched the lounge room window bow in and out. We heard a massive crack and it was a tree falling down in a nearby field.
We had a stream at the end of our 100ft garden and it rose right up to the middle of our garden.
I also remember that we had no power for 10 days and we had to do our spelling homework by candlelight!
We had a gas oven so my mum cooked jacket potatoes for our elderly neighbours. Wow its amazing how much i can remember seeing as i was only 10!”
“Looked out of the window from my third floor flat overlooking West Sutton station to see the damage – a bird’s eye view across the partk. It felt like an apocalypse. The next day I was due to fly to Geneva for work and was glad I hadn’t been in the air when the storm hit – though possibly that would have been safer!”
“The next morning walking to the course I was doing in central London as there was no transport. I saw a massive tree that had fallen over on Albert Embankment. We both were determined to go to where we had to be, not realising that everything was closed and London was deserted. No emails or texts then to tell us to stay home.”
“I remember driving to work from Dagenham to Aldgate on the A13 as no trains. It was surreal – hardly any cars on the road and the big advertisement boards blown down and strewn across the roads, amongst other stuff – correlated roofing etc ”
“I’ve just found my diary from 1987 and can’t believe I didn’t write a single thing about it, other than very rainy, thunder and gales. However, I can remember feeling very scared with the howling of the gales through the new double glazed windows, clenching my duvet and trying to hide under it, wishing I could look out of my bedroom window to see what was going on in the back garden but pitch black as no lighting at night in sleepy Somerset, wanting my mum who was asleep with my dad in the next bedroom (but that would not be ‘cool’ at the age of 21!), feeling even more scared when hearing the glass of my dad’s greenhouse smash in the back garden, and more than anything I desperately wanted to sleep in order to be oblivious to all the noise and wake up in with everyone safe and everything in one piece in the morning. Next day was just a case of my normal five minute drive to work at Barclays Bank in the next town and my parents making an emergency one hour drive to check our our fleet of holiday caravans in Weymouth (fortunately all of ours were safe and standing upright!)”
“I remember my mum saying that when she looked out of a window she saw a rabitt hutch flying through the sky!!! Just hope the poor rabbit had escaped before take off!”
“I was working and living in a pub in Sevenoaks at the time, it was a tall building and my room was of course at the top, didn’t sleep at all, every one else slept through it, went straight down to the Vine in the morning to see the devastation everywhere !! Couldn’t get to my parents house at East Hill, Otford, all cut of with fallen tree”
“I was sitting at a bus stop in Watford Lower high Street, outside Hammonds music store. The Harlequin shopping centre was under construction at the time, it’s tall tower cranes were swaying in the wind like lonely stalks of corn. I watched mesmerized fully expecting one to come down, they didn’t, but boy were they put to the test.The other thing that burns bright in my memory banks, and not much does these days, is a news report from Holland that showed an aerial shot of young lads leaning into the wind on the edge of cliff tops akin to our Dover Cliffs. These idiots were almost horizontal leaning out to sea. What if the wind had suddenly died or ebbed I thought, they’d be goners!”
“I was 15 and remember hearing the wind during the night and waking in the morning to see trees fallen and the best thing was being told that my school would be closed for the day via the radio no mobiles then. My friend and I spent the day exploring the damage in the area I lived at the time Selsdon South Croydon.”